Confess now, you’re a Downton Abbey junkie, and you crave that irresistible English style but don’t want bog standard. Chances are you are also a fan of Wind In The Willows, and would love nothing better than to get in touch with your inner Toad. Considering the rakishness of the Edwardians, today’s dandies don’t hold a candle to these style enthusiasts for pure swagger.
Well relax, I know just the places where you can find the ideal kit and accessories on South Audley Street in London. Purdey reeks of vintage mahogany, drinking flasks, cashmere the color of moss and briar. The premises tell a story of sobriety and old world charm. To top it off, they have been dressing the Toads of the country style set for years. I find their clothes are synonymous with good taste and discretion. No need to worry about making any sartorial faux pas here. If you have a weakness for Scottish shooting estates, and who doesn’t, Purdey is first cabin.
Just last week I was back in the old Metrop with a modern day Toad, and together we sauntered over the threshold of Purdey after sharing a proper lunch at a nearby pub owned by Guy Ritchie. Well braced with a few real ales properly pulled we were ready for some serious shopping action.
As we entered Audley House through the front doors, I noticed the Royal Warrant of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II proudly displayed, and I knew in a thrice we were in good company. We gazed on this season’s collection and the accessories. There were hi-tech jumpers, which repel water, cashmere soft as a robin’s breast, stout walking shoes, and an assortment of scarves, hip flasks, cuff links to make the Duchess of Devonshire blush.
Toad being Toad, bolted straight to the room where they sell suitable hunting jackets with an action back and shooting suits. I should also mention that he is also a grand admirer of heavyweight cords and moleskins in assorted shades to pair with his tweed jackets. We had just come from Cordings in Piccadilly where he snatched a bakers dozen. Fortunately for Toad, Purdey was stocked to rafters with exquisite requisites for gentlemen.
As Toad stated, “You needn’t look like a tramp when traipsing about the moors in these bits”.
Toad it seemed was an expert on this subject. I guess that comes with living on a country estate. For the rest of us, he also implied that weekend gear should be smart as well as reliable. Solid clothes, which stand the test of time are an English speciality. They embody grace and style. You don’t need to live in England to enjoy these clothes either. I know another chap who swears by them and lives in Piedmont. He claims they are perfect attire when collecting porcini mushrooms in the mountains.
So, I was pleased to see a russet tweed shooting suit, which I couldn’t resist. Perfect for my next grouse shoot. I caution you should you indulge, don’t make the mistake I did. Don’t wear it to Rules in Covent Garden. If you do you will roast. I almost cooked myself alive. The next thing I discovered was a Lovat jacket perfect for my upcoming R&R next to a salmon beat. For lovers of English style, you will find this bastion a treasure trove.
After nabbing a few pieces and a new hip flask for my outdoor winter hikes I thought that I was stepped into a time warp, and yet I found the ambiance reassuring. The MD, Emmanuel, who is an expert on hunting and luxury shot guns, will advise you on your every need. Gentleman such as Emanuel are a rare breed. He is friendly, knowledgeable, and can entertain you with fabulous stories if you give him a chance. He personifies the Purdey spirit and is a tribute to this noble house.
You see, Purdey is more than a typical outdoor clothing store. It is one of the world’s most premier handmade centers of shot guns on which the firm built its enviable reputation.
Just think, Purdey was established in London in 1814, the year before the battle of Waterloo. The founder, James Purdey, had previously worked as head stocker for Joseph Manton, the foremost gunmaker of his time. Learning his lessons like Stradivarius once learned to make violins, he proceeded to set up on his own as any entrepreneurial soul will. His renown spread quickly and by 1838, Queen Victoria bought a pair of Purdey pistols. Now how is that for pedigree?
By the 1880s, his son understood that innovation in design and technology was key. James the Younger, as he was called, stood at the forefront of bespoke gun and rifle manufacture. History buffs know that the company was granted its first Royal Warrant in 1868 by The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. This honor has been bestowed by the crown on every managing director of James Purdey & Sons Ltd ever since. The only major change to this very English institution took place in 1994, when the last of the family retired. The firm was sold to the Richemont Group.
History aside, the store is full of hunting lore galore. In a special room, James Purdey conceived a banquet hall, which is still used for special occasions and guests. It resembles a shooting lodge in Scotland with a glass roof, which is architecturally unique. The walls are lined with artifacts, guns, and even photographs of the British in India and Maharajahs. It is quite impressive and great place to party, should you decide to book the premises. Personally, in my humble view, it is really fab. Book now and you will have no regrets.
The best counsel I can offer is that when you discover this shop, buy a brace of great suits, draw up a map of your Wild Wood, fill your hip flask to the brim and then post haste, set off to discover the beauty of your country. You never know what the weather will conjure up. TTFN.
Article Title: Sitting Pretty Purdey
Photographs curated by ES
About The Author
Andrew Scharf is a regular contributor on art | food | fashion | music | travel |
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